Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

Rethinking

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King

From Alastair Woods of PWC:

“People [are] rethinking what they want from life. With the supply pressures, consumer price inflation and inflationary pressures, there are people looking for ways to increase their income.

“Moving jobs is the quickest way to do this and with many companies in growth mode, there are more jobs around than ever.”

While money is part of the issue for accounting firms, life/work balance and a pleasant work culture are key.

Now, more than ever, CPA firms need to focus on their culture and on clearly communicating the expectations and the opportunities for their employees.

The upcoming tax season will be even a more critical time this year. If your firm has another “rough” tax season, how many people will leave you next summer? Things like mandatory Saturdays during busy season, a long-standing practice in public accounting, is being discontinued by some progressive firms.

Always focus on communicating the exceptional benefits of working in public accounting. There are many! The pay is attractive and the opportunity for exceptional pay is obtainable. Also, life/work balance has become commonplace in public accounting.

It is not easy and there are a lot of factors involved but take steps to make your firm the firm that employees from other firms want to move to.

  • Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
  • Tim Notke

Monday, November 29th, 2021

What Does Your Team Want?

“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be.” – – Harvey MacKay

The experts tell us that 79% of workers who recently left their job say they left because of a lack of appreciation.

Because of the serious lack of talented professionals in the CPA profession and a weak pipeline for the future, perhaps you have upped your game and are paying people an excellent salary. That is important.

But never forget something that I have continually written about for years. They want:

  • You to say appreciate them
  • Someone who cares about them personally (mentoring)
  • Recognition if they go above and beyond
  • Recognition if they help others
  • Leaders who always say, “Good morning!” and “Thank-you!”
  • You to listen to them

I love to share Tom Peters’ Big Six:

  1. Hello.
  2. Thank you.
  3. Eye contact.
  4. Fierce listening.
  5. What do you think?
  6. How can I help?

Read more – Here is a great article by Amy Vetter in Accounting Today – Why It Is Important To Thank Your Team.

  • It's amazing how email has changed our lives. You ever get a handwritten letter in the mail today? What the? Has someone been kidnapped?
  • Jim Gaffigan

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

Give Them A Chance

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pelé, Brazilian football legend.

Performing all the services that a CPA firm offers is not something that is learned overnight.

How many times have you heard a new recruit say, “I never learned this in college!”? Many new hires struggle for a while with what seems like fairly easy activities to a more experienced CPA.

With inexperienced new hires and with administrative employees, I believe that it takes a full year cycle for them to begin to grasp the intricacies of their job. In a CPA firm, there are three seasons – busy season, summer, and fall. Each season has varying duties that you sometimes don’t perform except once a year. That is why giving them a year to experience the duties expected of them seems to make sense. Then, I always recommend that you give them two years to determine if they are going to fail or succeed.

If a person is not a good fit for public accounting, it is not fair to string them along, hoping that they will eventually “get it”. You are not doing them, or the firm, a favor.

Comments I have heard from practitioners during some of my presentations: “We don’t give them two years, we usually give them eight years before we face reality and let them go.” “If someone is not a good fit, we seem to keep them forever.”

So many firms are desperate for people right now. Don’t lower your standards. That’s never what a CPA should do.

  • The greater the difficulty the more the glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.
  • Epictetus

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

The Clock Is Ticking – Flashback Friday

“I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” – Woody Allen

The major due dates have passed. Now, you have two months to get a lot done.

Read this flashback post about not wasting valuable time!

  • The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.
  • Stephen Covey

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

Don’t Give Up

“‘Oh well’, said Miss Marble, ‘it’s just perseverance, isn’t it, that leads to things.'” — Agatha Christie

The Agatha Christie crime sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, consistently solves murder cases by demonstrating perseverance.

The many issues that need attention inside a busy, growing accounting firm must be attacked in the same way. Simply persevere!

Firm Administrators/Practice Managers, now that October 15th has passed, are facing a formidable list of things to do.

One administrator shared a list of things that need to be addressed before year-end:

  • We need to become truly and wholly paperless.
  • We need to hire a Tax Manager!
  • We need to hire an additional administrative professional.
  • Our website needs to be updated!
  • We must upgrade our phone system.
  • We are adding a new server (we are not in the cloud yet!).

Plus, just the daily occurrences that need attention from any firm administrator.

Many of you are facing similar challenges as the year draws to a close. It won’t be easy but keep in mind Miss Marple’s quote, above. Perseverance pays off!

  • Success comes from curiosity, concentration, perseverance, and self-criticism.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Salaries

“These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.” – Abraham Lincoln

I always get questions about salaries for the CPA profession. Firms want to know what other firms are paying by level – Staff, Senior, Manager, etc. I even did a limited survey myself but was disappointed by the response.

Yesterday, I read a post by goingconcern addressing CPA salaries in eight cities: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and St Louis. The author used various sources.

There are three salary percentiles.

  • 25th percentile: New to the type of role, still acquiring relevant skills.
  • 50th percentile: Average experience, has most of the necessary skills.
  • 75th percentile: Above-average experience, has all needed skills.

For example, here is the listing for an entry-level tax accountant in Cincinnati:

  • 25th percentile: $41,000 -> $39,975
  • 50th percentile: $50,250 -> $48,994
  • 75th percentile: $59,500 -> $58,013

Read the post here. I think you will find it very helpful.

  • If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.
  • Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

The Bonus Dilemma

“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing It.” – – Walter Chrysler

You have heard me say it often: I’ve been around a while.

One thing that I have lived through during my 30+ years in CPA firm management is the bonus plan saga. It is like a nightmare that keeps repeating itself (like in the movie Groundhog Day):

  • As a firm grows, it begins to hire more people.
  • At first, there is no bonus plan. People get paid for their over-all performance.
  • Then, a partner has a great idea, “Let’s put in a bonus plan! It will inspire our people to do better.”
  • And then, the ones who don’t get a bonus become jealous.
  • And then, CPA firm leaders feel guilty because they are not being fair to everyone.
  • The ones who do get the bonus usually are the top performers, however, some others may get a bonus because they are creative, intelligent people who can figure out how to “work” any bonus system ever designed for a CPA firm.
  • Eventually, (and it doesn’t take too long) the plan begins to demotivate people.
  • Then, the bright idea becomes: “Let’s do away with our bonus plan and build it back into their salaries.  We’ll reward top performers with larger compensation increases.” Thus, everyone gets an unexpected raise.
  • Several years later, “Let’s put in a bonus plan!” – – – same thing all over again, eventually it is dropped again because it really doesn’t work very well and it creates a huge amount of administrative work in tracking, measuring and analyzing.

I’ve actually been through this saga about 4 times during my career.

I have very mixed emotions about bonus/incentive plans relating to basic job performance.  However, I am very much in favor of incentives for special efforts like bringing in a great new client or recruiting a top-notch, experienced CPA to the firm.

Many partners and managers resort to incentives because they think they’re smart enough to create the perfect carrot. Doesn’t usually work that way in CPA firms.

Here’s what often happens inside the firm.  If you provide incentives for billable time you will get lots of billable time. Also, every client engagement will be over budget. You want them to get billable hours, yet you want them to perform the engagement more efficiently in less time than last year. It sends mixed messages.  We don’t live in a single-variable world – especially inside a CPA firm.

Much of the challenge with developing a highly productive team does not depend on incentives.  It relates back to having skilled, effective managers.  Winning firms have managers (and partners) who continually communicate, coach, and train the younger people in the firm so that everyone understands their role and the importance of quality, timely client service.  That is what will earn them a bigger paycheck.

While some bonus plans can demotivate your people, good managers do not. Good managers motivate.  Embrace the challenging activity of continually interacting and communicating with your team members.

  • You know what Gordie Howe got for a signing bonus? A team jacket!
  • Ed Lauter

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

When They Walk In The Door

“If you want to ignite the spark, focus on them from the moment they walk in the door.”  – Bruce Tulgan

I have often talked about young, newly graduated talent walking into the door, for the first time, at their new job in a CPA firm. My story stresses the fact that from a baby’s first step they have heard applause for each accomplishment through their growing-up years. Even at college graduation, they hear applause.

What do they hear when they walk into a CPA firm? Silence.

From Bruce Tulgan – “With a concrete onboarding plan, clear learning objectives, and supporting materials—and one or two daily one-on-ones—you will be amazed how quickly you can get a new employee on-board, up-to-speed, and operating at full capacity.”

Read this great blog post by Bruce Tulgan and watch the short video summary. What can your firm do to make onboarding and continual employment at your firm enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding?

  • Employees today want to know, “What do you want from me today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year?
  • Bruce Tulgan

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Boundaryless Recruiting

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard

As accounting firms have adapted to a remote work environment, things have happened. Some of these things could be described as – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Team members have been working very effectively. Key people in your firm have become experts at training new hires remotely. Others have worked hard on guiding the culture of the firm. The good? Now, you can hire people no matter where they live. It is called boundaryless recruiting it is going very well for some firms.

Beware, the bad – Now firms from anywhere in the world can reach out to your valuable staff and hire them without the requirement of having to relocate. They can pay them a much larger salary than you are offering and that much larger salary goes even farther if your firm is in a lower cost of living location.

The ugly part is that while you are widening your horizons when it comes to hiring, other firms are doing the same. Boundaryless recruiting has become just one battlefield in the war for people. Don’t give up!

  • It always seems impossible until it's done.
  • Nelson Mandela

Friday, September 24th, 2021

Remote Workers – Flashback Friday

“Friday is a day to finish your goals for the week. It is a day to celebrate that which you set out to accomplish at the beginning of the week.” —Byron Pulsifer

You have people who want to be fully remote. You have people who want to get back to the office. You have people who want a hybrid schedule. No matter which way you go, it’s still going to be different for everyone. Someone who has always been a key “go-to” person for staff might now be hybrid and not always easily accessible and so on.

Check out this post about Another View of Remote Workers.

Have a nice weekend!

  • If my boss knew how unproductive I am on Fridays, he wouldn't want me here either.
  • James Johnson